NNSL Photo/Graphic

NNSL Photo/Graphic
Editorial Cartoons

Subscriber pages
buttonspacer News Desk
buttonspacer Columnists
buttonspacer Editorial
buttonspacer Readers comment
buttonspacer Tenders

Demo pages
Here's a sample of what only subscribers see

Subscribe now
Subscribe to both hardcopy or internet editions of NNSL publications

Our print and online advertising information, including contact detail.
Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Safe development vital
NWT News/North - Monday, December 3, 2012

When is the right time to do an environmental assessment of an oil or gas project?

MGM Energy insists the wrong time is at the exploration stage, before the economic basis of any potential project has been determined.

That view is not shared by the Sahtu Land and Water Board, which has triggered an environmental assessment of MGM's application to drill an exploratory horizontal well on one of its Sahtu properties.

Nor is it the view of a wide range of organizations that reviewed the application, from the Tulita Dene Band Council to the National Energy Board, 29 in all.

The environmental assessment referral now pushes the application into that black hole known as the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board. That's a red tape jungle where only the most patient with deepest pockets do not fear to tread, essentially multi-national resource development companies that can withstand the organic mix of politics and science undefined by either timelines or commitment to any particular process.

MGM, not surprisingly, has said thanks but no thanks and has withdrawn the application. That must have hurt, especially since Shell Canada had agreed to pick up the tab for the work had the horizontal drilling been approved.

This comes on the heels of the recently granted application for the exploratory well MGM is working on this winter. Not a voice was raised in objection to the drilling, no environmental assessment requested.

What's the difference between the two applications? Intervenors were more concerned about the fracking process and the territory's lack of experience with a similar project. Fracking involves cracking the rock with pressurized water or other fluids to get at the gas or oil.

Yes, fracking is the bugaboo of the oil and gas world. It has been blamed for everything from killing cows and poisoning towns' water supplies to triggering earthquakes, horror stories which may or may not be true.

Yet the much touted energy independence of the United States by 2020 is greatly dependent upon fracking, so it is being done everywhere it is economically viable and the environmental damage is being managed.

We are not suggesting fracking should be given the green light in the Sahtu without delay or scrutiny. But it is clear from the comments of the organizations reviewing MGM's application that what's lacking is fundamental baseline data on the potential negative effects of fracking on Sahtu lands and water.

MGM admits as much, but argues such an exploratory horizontal well would provide relevant information. We agree.

MGM vice-president of exploration John Hogg also acknowledged to News/North that not only is there a great need for more such information, but that it should be presented, if not researched by, independent third parties such as territorial or federal government agencies. He frankly admitted people might well suspect the credibility of industry-supplied information.

We agree again. In fact, if governments wore moccasins instead of lead boots, they would view the MGM/Shell horizontal/fracking drilling proposal as a fact-finding opportunity and grant a special experimental drilling licence.

The GNWT knows how critical oil and gas development is to the future of the Sahtu, the NWT and Canada, not to forget primarily Norman Wells. Territorial energy Minister David Ramsay took Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya and Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins to Calgary in August on a hydraulic fracturing fact-finding mission.

That's a good start. It's not enough to accept business as usual and rely on regulatory boards alone to decide the fate of development opportunities. It's time to get involved and take charge. That's what devolution is all about.

A known 'minefield'
Nunavut News/North - Monday, December 3, 2012

A company hoping to further explore for uranium in the Thelon Basin straddling the Nunavut/NWT border is abandoning a property due to regulatory scrutiny, but it should have been prepared to weather the storm.

Uravan Minerals' CEO says an environmental review on an exploration company is too onerous - it will add too much time and, in the mining business, time is money. A year or two of consultations, reviews and reports is beyond the company's threshold.

Larry Lahusen, the CEO in question, paints a picture of Uravan stepping into a minefield without being told a landmine exists.

Uravan isn't new to Nunavut. The company has had high hopes of proving a substantial uranium deposit at Garry Lake for several years, at least since 2004. By 2009 Lahusen said Uravan was reconsidering its prospects due to regulatory obstacles.

At the time, it was known to the company that it was proposing to do exploratory work on the calving grounds of the Beverly caribou herd, close to 250 km northwest of Baker Lake.

Garry Lake consists of more than 335,553 hectares, and its effects on the caribou herd are uncertain. Actually, much remains a mystery about the herd's status.

The outcome of a population survey done this summer won't be known until at least January. The last survey, close to 18 years ago, showed an estimated 276,000 animals but field counts have indicated a decline.

While Lahusen puts a priority on mining, he underestimates Inuit and Dene reliance on hunting caribou meat. The fate of the Beverly herd means a great deal to them and, in fact, the rest of the world.

Mining projects have gone ahead in Nunavut: Jericho and Meadowbank, while Mary River is heading in that direction. It only takes a few to maximize jobs and contracts that Inuit can fulfil. And, as a member of the regulatory review board pointed out, despite Uravan's protests over the environmental red tape in Nunavut, the territory is reaping the rewards of enormous amounts of money sunk into exploration, an estimated $568 million this year.

In a Fraser Institute survey of global mining destinations, Nunavut ranked 36th out of 93 locations in 2012, better than the NWT's 48th. While the regulatory regime stands to improve, our territory at least lacks the corrupt government, violent guerrillas and natural disasters that plague other countries around the world.

Finally, uranium prices spiked to $136 per pound in 2007, but stand at under $42 per pound now. Where will prices be in five years? We don't know, but if it's high enough another company will be interested in Garry Lake, and if that company has the money and the patience maybe it will get the prize.

Toning down the religious crusade
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, November 30, 2012

The Yellowknife Catholic school board did something novel at its inaugural meeting earlier this month - it selected a non-Catholic as its chairperson.

Simon Taylor may not be a household name in this city, but that likely suits the board just fine. Catholic trustees would be well served by eschewing the controversy that has dogged their board for the past several years, and instead work diligently with a low profile to further the interests of their students.

This is something Yellowknife Catholic Schools did well until 2006 when it embarked on a religious crusade to rid itself of non-Catholic trustees, Amy Simpson-Hacala, in particular, who was re-elected to the board last month. Until then parents had mainly been concerned about school programs and facilities. Forty per cent of the student body weren't even Catholic.

With religion being held up a reason to be exclusionary at the board level, what happened next was predictable.

Student enrolment went from 1,556 in 2006 to 1,314 in 2010, and the district's share of tax support among Yellowknife ratepayers fell to 40 per cent from 44.5 per cent.

It's taken a while for the district to work its demons out. From the lengthy - and assuredly costly - court dispute with the territorial government in a doomed attempt to keep non-Catholics off the board to the inexplicable scenario earlier this year when the board tried to remove long-time employees Johnnie Bowden and Claudia Parker, the stubborn urge toward controversy has been hard to restrain.

With Taylor at the helm, the signal seems to be that those days may behind them, and providing quality education and programs - not religious dogma - is once again paramount.

Celebrate The Gumboots legacy
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, November 30, 2012

Last week Yellowknife's longest-running folk group, The Gumboots, announced they have retired the band after 28 years.

Past and present members of the long-lived musical act showed generations of performers what is possible with a little imagination and lots of perseverance

The Gumboots released four albums between 1992 and 2009. Their set lists include centuries-old traditional tunes along with original songs that chronicle tragedies and triumphs from Northern history.

Every winter the musicians organized a large concert at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC), an ambitious tradition that endured for more than two decades. The band treated audiences to some of the biggest names in Canadian roots music, such as Juno-winning recording artists Murray McLauchlan, Valdy, and The Wailin' Jennies and Grammy-nominated band The Crash Test Dummies. Last year, Juno-winning Yellowknife singer/songwriter Leela Gilday was the band's final special guest.

Her dad, Bill Gilday, was the last performing founding member of The Gumboots, who recruited bandmates Ray Bethke and Steve Lacey to round out the group in recent years.

All three Gumboots are leaders in our community. Their contributions off stage are as laudable as their work with The Gumboots. Gilday inspired students as a teacher for decades and has composed scores for countless artistic projects. Bethke has led boards for NACC and Music NWT and participated in amateur theatre. Lacey is a founding member of another long-running band, The Ceilidh Friends, and also worked as a teacher and with NACC.

Their work ethic, commitment to community and love for the North sounded all the right notes for future performing artists.

Educational progress
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, November 29, 2012

For some reason negative news seems to travel faster than positive news.

On almost every subject, negative aspects come forward first, whether in daily life or on the evening newscast. This is true with education in the Deh Cho.

Often what people talk about is poor attendance levels, standardized achievements tests results that rank lower than in other places and low numbers of secondary school graduates. Positive developments seem to receive less attention.

That's why it's important to step back and also acknowledge the innovative and creative approaches that are being taken in schools across the region.

For schools that on any scale would be considered small, and in some cases very small, it's amazing what teachers and educators take the time and make the effort to examine.

These initiatives range from solar ovens in Trout Lake to Dene Zhatie immersion in Fort Providence.

These projects aren't always big and splashy and some may not look like much on the surface, but they are all ways in which educators are working to engage Deh Cho students.

Teachers in the Deh Cho are also very willing to allow other educators and specialists in different subjects to come into the schools and interact with students.

A case in point is the fiddle instructors from the Kole Crook Fiddle Association who were recently in Trout Lake giving lessons at the Charles Tetcho School.

A much larger example is the Berger Inquiry Project that resulted in an award for Brian Jaffray, a teacher consultant with the Dehcho Divisional Education Council. He is receiving a 2012 Governor General's History Award for Excellence.

Instead of learning about the Berger Inquiry from a textbook, that project allowed students from across the Deh Cho to get involved in first-hand research.

Students learned about photography, film making and videography while directly connecting with an aspect of the region's history and making material that will be featured on a website. This project was made possible because of Jaffray and the team he worked with, but also because teachers were willing to set aside time in their school's schedule to accommodate it.

Not every teacher and educator will receive an award like Jaffray, but it's important to recognize that work is ongoing in Deh Cho schools to give students the best and most innovative education possible.

Inuvik needs your dollars
Editorial Comment by Danielle Sachs
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, November 29, 2012

The annual Great Northern Arts Festival Society's Christmas Craft and Gift sale was a perfect example of the wide variety of talent found in Inuvik and the surrounding region.

Each table was overflowing with handmade items, both traditional or more contemporary, over the weekend.

This event is a great way of showing townsfolk exactly what's available in the area. In some cases there were amazing gift ideas available literally from your next-door neighbour.

There's an amazing amount of talent and resourcefulness in Inuvik and there are many examples of that arising regularly, either by selling Indian food out of one's home or posting crafts for sale in the classifieds or on the Internet.

A number of stores in town also have great merchandise that could make for much-appreciated gifts.

Shopping locally isn't always the cheapest option, but it does keep those hard-earned dollars in the community, either by supporting a local business or a local artist. As an added bonus, you don't have to worry about the cost of shipping when you purchase here in the community.

Sure, it's not always easy getting exactly what you want locally, but you can always get an alternative, sometimes a product that has more of a Northern flair. Is ground beef too basic? Buy ground muskox instead. It won't have originated right here in town, but Sachs Harbour is still closer than a cattle ranch somewhere in Alberta.

Another benefit of browsing for Christmas presents locally is that it brings the community closer together. Wandering the aisles at the craft fair over the weekend, sometimes you got the feeling that you were at a giant family reunion or celebration, complete with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday as one vendor celebrated a special occasion.

Some people may have voiced complaints that prices at the craft fair were too high, but these are items that are going to last a lot longer than your standard pair of cheap winter boots or drafty, poorly-sewn mittens. Besides, it's easy to underestimate how many hours go into making handmade crafts. It's a lot of hard work.

We should be encouraging more people to look at buying things locally. The benefits extend many ways for the people here and surrounding Inuvik.

Take precautions as holidays approach
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fire Safety 101 strongly suggests that people do not enter a burning structure for any reason, despite the temptation to retrieve valuable possessions, even our beloved pets.

Case in point is our coverage of last week's house fire at Cassidy Point, in which the homeowner returned to her house to discover flames and smoke coming from an addition where the well and water tank are located.

Kristjana Dunn's two children were understandably upset about seeing the flames and expressed concern about the family's pets. Two dogs, Sasha and McKinley, and a cat, Sunny, were still inside the house. Brave, but risky. Wisely, Dunn went into the house on her hands and knees, below the level of smoke, and called the dogs, who crawled on their bellies through the doorway to safety. To be fair, Dunn didn't do a room-to-room search for the pets. Rather, she only went so far as the entryway and was able to call the dogs to her. She also abandoned a search for the cat, which was later found by firefighters, alive and hiding under the bed in the master bedroom.

The outcome in this instance was fortunate.

With the onset of cold weather and the rapid approach of the holiday season, now might be a good time to go over a home escape plan with your family, which includes the identification of a predetermined meeting spot outside of the house to call the fire department and wait for emergency responders.

It's also a good time to check your surroundings for fire hazards inadvertently created by a need for heat, like space heaters, for example.

And, if you're considering putting up and decorating a live Christmas tree, keep a fire extinguisher nearby and recognize that dry pine and spruce trees can burn rapidly and cause fire to spread quickly.

Some simple education and prevention now can protect your loved ones throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Hockey mad in the city
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The hockey game held Nov. 18 involving locked out NHL hockey players and some of Yellowknife's more talented skaters seemed doubtful when first revealed to the media, Nov. 1.

It was unclear the next week whether there was enough time to book the Multiplex to host the game, or whether the lockout would come to a premature end and shatter the dream of having NHL players scoring highlight reel goals on Yellowknife ice.

In the end, out of shear will, the Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT, the City of Yellowknife, the game's sponsors, and dozens of hockey-mad volunteers came together and made sure the Multiplex was the place to be Nov. 18. Of course, the game wouldn't have been possible without organizer John Chabot and a collection of Ottawa Senators and other NHLers. We have them to thank as well.

Some $16,000 was raised from the event toward the Yk Minor Hockey Association and First Assist, a program to help at-risk aboriginal children in small communities learn the value of education.

The sold-out crowd was treated to the sight of Northern favourite Jordin Tootoo of the Detroit Red Wings scoring a hat trick while Yellowknife players such as Brad Mueller and James Williams got to race down the ice with the pros.

We had our city's youngest hockey players get some on-ice pointers from Ottawa's Chris Neil and Marc Methot, and one lucky fan who threaded the needle with his shot to win a brand new Buick Verano.

All in all, it was a great night for Yellowknife, and proof that Northerners can collaborate with the pros to make things happen. All they need to do is put their heads - and hockey sticks - together.

GN's social media ban should be shot down
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

While I can't say it's a majority, having never conducted a poll on the subject, I can say a growing number of Kivalliq teachers are voicing displeasure over the Government of Nunavut's (GN) decision to block YouTube and other social-media sites from our schools.

The GN's concern seems to be how much bandwidth the sites demand.

If that's it in a nutshell (fat chance), one can't help but wonder what could possibly be a more important use of bandwidth than for the education of our youth?

Let's be honest here.

There's no doubt some kids were on YouTube, Facebook, etc., during school hours, and nothing they did on those sites remotely resembled anything of educational value.

That said, many other kids used those social-media sites for the right reasons and were exposed to a wealth of news and topical, relevant information.

In short, they were keeping up with the world in the here and now, and that's one of the most valuable aspects of the Internet, in general, when it comes to students in remote locations.

I also agree with the educators who are wondering why the Nunavut Teacher's Association isn't demanding a better explanation from the GN, if not outright fighting to have the move reversed on the grounds it's holding back the delivery of a modern education.

The decision to block the sites also diminishes an educator's ability to take full advantage of the digital technology that exists today.

If holding back eager young minds from the best today's technology has to offer in terms of educational resources is part of what the GN is selling as a made-in-Nunavut curriculum, then I'm not buying and neither should our district education authorities or parents.

As one teacher so aptly asked, "When are people going to recognize the incredible teaching opportunities inherent in the use of iPhones, iPods, iPads and their various incarnations?"

While I don't believe the decision, in and of itself, is reason for students and parents to abandon traditional education through schooling in favour of home learning via the Internet, they should let the GN know, in no uncertain terms, this decision is archaic, if not downright draconian, in nature.

It is a move towards retarding the modern delivery of education, and a step backwards in any effort to win the people's hearts and minds concerning the new curriculum.

In fact, Nunavut should be among the nation's leaders in adapting and promoting the use of technology and social-media sites in improving our children's education.

There is also the message of distrust this sends to our youth, unless, of course, you're buying the reason of bandwidth and bandwidth alone being the reason behind the GN's decision.

This reeks of the GN convincing itself hundreds of kids were spending their days watching inappropriate videos instead of using the Internet for educational purposes.

We're almost half a century past Timothy Leary uttering his infamous line in 1967, but, it appears, the GN fears the Internet is the new way for our youth to "tune in, turn on and drop out."

It's time to grab an abacus and add up just how many ways that line of thinking simply doesn't make sense.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.